The 4Ps… Most marketers have heard of them at some time. It’s almost a cliché.
Many attribute the 4Ps to Philip Kotler or some other modern-day marketing guru, but in fact the credit goes to E. Jerome McCarthy; in 1960 he coined the term The Marketing Mixcomprising:
Professor Kotler has been an exponent of the 4 Ps in his numerous influential marketing books. In 1981, Booms and Bitner proposed a model of 7 Ps, adding Process, People and Physical Evidence, to apply specifically to services marketing.
But in the real world, how often do we marketers really think about the full marketing mix? Indeed, how many marketers actually work across all 4 Ps?
Today most marketing departments (and marketers) are largely restricted to the last P (Promotion), which is not even so much a 'P' as an 'MC' – Marketing Communications.
It seems that in many cases, marketers have surrendered control of Product, Price and Place to their colleagues, e.g. Finance, Sales, Distribution and Manufacturing. With the added complexity and fragmentation that Digital has added, and increasing pressure on resources, many senior marketers would no doubt claim that ‘MC’ alone is enough to keep them very busy. And yet as the champions of the customer within the organisation, shouldn’t we marketers also be closely involved with the other 3 Ps: Product, Price and Place?
I would argue for a holistic role for marketing in the digital age, including both off- and online, and encompassing the complete marketing process, not just Marketing Communications. Modern marketers should own the marketing strategy and be the experts at using the web for market research, for product development and also fulfilment/order processing. Marketers are also best placed to advise the business on the ecommerce sales process and online pricing strategies.
We’re all familiar with the disruptive effects of the internet on Product, Price and Place and the resulting opportunities and threats. Marketers need to plan and execute the building of effective websites and apps, we need to understand digital analytics. Social and mobile have an increasing impact on everything marketers plan and do.
The best marketers will have strong opinions on the Product; indeed, in Financial Services the product may need to be formulated (effectively created) and marketers can certainly help. Their ideas on making new products that the customer actually wants may not always be sought. But they should be welcomed because marketers understand the customer.
Some of your potential customers don’t buy from you because they believe your prices are too high. Others are delighted with your product/service and would willingly pay more. Hence the need for Pricing Strategy. This should not be left to Finance and/or Sales.
With our access to market research data and insights derived from analytics, marketers increasingly understand the benefits customers derive from the underlying product features. We should have a good idea exactly what customers will pay for. And how much. Professor Kotler rightly preaches about ‘creating ad, capturing value’. As marketers, we need to be the champions of value-based pricing and assertive in sharing our understanding and recommendations with the rest of the organisation; even if vested interests sometimes mean they are not immediately welcomed.
Something of a fake P, in that it should really be D for Distribution. In the digital age, many products are ordered and some even ‘delivered’ online: no warehousing, pallets, no trucks, no scheduling of drivers or freight-forwarding admin. So, Place translates to ease of access; can the product be downloaded and installed seamlessly and efficiently? This is after all not only user experience (UX) but customer experience (CX). Again, marketers should have a big input into this. Ecommerce is all about Place.
The ultimate aim of the promotion or marketing communication is to acquire and sell products to customers. That promotion is the domain of Marketing remains unchallenged. For every campaign, Marketing creates a communications plan in which every step of the acquisition/sales process is addressed across all media channels, offline and online. Invariably the communications strategy is derived from a wider business strategy. Marketing needs to be at the forefront of the overall strategy setting, in order to ensure that the customers’ needs are at the heart of it.
I firmly believe that modern marketers deserve a seat at the top table, after all, every business should be built around customers and we marketers are the customer experts. However, in order to justify membership of the C-Suite, the chief marketing officer (CMO) needs to remember McCarthy and actively engage with, and add value to, the organisation’s operations across all the 4 Ps - not just one.
So don’t settle for a career as a single P marketer.
Mike Berry F IDM is a (digital) marketing trainer, lecturer, consultant and author.
He is the course tutor on the IDM Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Marketing.